Main cast: Malcolm McDowell (Tibor Cargrew), Anne Heche (Martha Von Vogel), Russell Porter (Bronson), Jason Diablo (Jerry), Richard Ian Cox (Pudgy Dodge), Bill Dow (McCoy), and Stephen Hawking (The Host)
Director: Michael Tolkin
Jerry Was a Man was loosely based on the late Robert A Heinlein’s story, with enough fundamental elements of that story changed so that Mr Heinlein’s legacy won’t be tarnished too much by this thing. This is a good thing thing for him, but alas, for me, I can’t just click my fingers and turn back time so that I never even started watching this thing.
Set in the future when mankind is served by androids… or maybe anthropoids? I don’t know. Mr Heinlein’s story focuses on a chimpanzee, but here, I suppose they ran out of money after doing that ghastly miniature elephant and thought, oh whatever, let’s just ditch the make-up and have Jason Diablo act like a talking chimpanzee instead. Who would know the difference?
Anyway, in this beautiful future, the wealthy exist only to entertain themselves, we have a wealthy couple Martha and Bronson Von Vogel who visit Tibor Cargrew to look for cute pets to amuse themselves with. Bronson is enamored with a miniature elephant, but Martha is determined to adopt an entirely different thing: Jerry, whatever it is, who is designated to be pulped into dog food as he’s no longer of use as a servant. She adopts him, and generally adores him while he wails about wanting a smoke all the time.
Being a Masters of Science Fiction episode, this one naturally wants to preach something to the audience – humanity is evil, no wait… humanity is precious, oh maybe not, et cetera – but I have no idea what it is trying to say. Malcolm McDowell chews the scenery as much as he can, but his character comes off as the typical manic, heartless capitalist pig – not the most interesting caricature as that one is overdone to death, and come on, as if anyone is dumb enough to believe that Hollywood hates capitalism. Martha and Bronson are so infantile that they may as well be mentally handicapped. There is a court case to demonstrate that Jerry is somehow human, but that humanity is supposedly evidenced by how he is willing to kill another person to save himself. The whole thing is played up for slapstick-like humor anyway, so the whole thing is more cringe festival than anything else. Jerry himself is a useless asshole, so there is that.
So, what is Jerry Was a Man all about? Humanity sucks from every angle? This existence of this episode is a pretty compelling evidence that humanity – in Hollywood, at least – is indeed that. It’s embarrassingly bad enough to make one yearn for the Kanamits to pay us all a visit.